Wednesday, June 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM discusses Cabinet expansion
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 25
Decks were cleared today for a major reorganisation of the BJP, and the government after Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had extensive discussions with his Cabinet and party colleagues.

The Prime Minister discussed the issue of Cabinet expansion with Home Minister L.K. Advani, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pramod Mahajan and NDA convener and Defence Minister George Fernandes.

BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy, who had yesterday scotched reports of his joining the government, also met the Prime Minister before the meeting began.

Earlier, Mr Vajpayee had detailed discussions on the issue of party reorganisation with Mr Krishnamurthy, former party President Kushabhau Thakre and RSS Joint General Secretary Madan Das Devi.

The parleys come in the midst of reports that some senior BJP ministers might be drafted for party work and that Mr Advani might be elevated as Deputy Prime Minister.

Authoritative sources, however, said the issue of Mr Advani being elevated as Deputy Prime Minister was only media speculation.

Mr Advani is already number two in the Cabinet and thus a post of Deputy Prime Minister would thus just by symbolic elevation, the sources said.

There is also speculation that Yashwant Sinha might be out of the Finance portfolio. Some allies, including Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee are expected to be included in the Cabinet.

The sources said that the Union Cabinet is going to be expanded towards the end of this month or early next month.

Mr Vajpayee was keen to consult the RSS and the senior party colleagues before undertaking the exercise.

Incidentally, the Prime Minister is leaving on a two-day trip to his constituency Lucknow and the Cabinet reshuffle is expected to take place after his return.

The exercise is aimed at making the BJP a fighting and aggressive outfit, the sources said adding that some of the younger ministers of the Vajpayee Council of Ministers would be dropped and would be roped in for party work.

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